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Guest Lecture: „Negating the Human, Narrating a World Without Us“, Mahlu Mertens (Ghent University, Belgium)

25. Januar 2022, Zeit: 12:1513:45

Poster für den Gastvortrag von Mahlu Mertens. Neben den Informationen zum Gastvortrag zeigt das Poster ein Bild eines alten Stuhls mit roter Polsterung auf einer Theaterbühne.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022, 12:15-01:45 p.m., online lecture
Zoom-Call ID: 966 1037 6359 (opens at 12 p.m. sharp)

The Anthropocene constitutes dramatic challenges to customary literary and artistic forms of expression. One such challenge is how to narrate humanity as a geological agent that is inscribing its existence on the Earth, leaving traces that will outlive the human species. In this context, writers often use the trope of the future reader: a narrative enabling device that provides a perspective from beyond the death of our species, with the benefit of hypothetical hindsight. Such a narrator, however, also contradicts the idea of total destruction, because the imaginary future vantage point implies that “consciousness goes on” (Morton 2010: 254). Most of these Anthropocene stories thus provide a consolation in the form of an imagined future “vision or referring eye” that will be there to interpret the traces that remain (Colebrook 2014: 28). In this talk, Mahlu Mertens will do a close reading of the Flemish theatre play World Without Us by Ontroerend Goed to show how theatre as a mode can circumvent this problem, because of its boundedness to the here and now.

Mahlu Mertens is a theatre director, writer, and literary scholar. Currently she is working as a PhD candidate at Ghent University on a project that explores how climate change literature that resists the typical form of the post-apocalyptic climate dystopia may provide alternative ways of narrating anthropogenic climate change that are more apt to represent this multi-faceted and far-reaching phenomenon. Her research interests are contemporary fiction and the environmental humanities in general, and climate change fiction and eco-theatre in particular. (Homepage)


  • Morton, Timothy. „The Dark Ecology of Elegy.“ The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy. Ed. Karen A. Weismann. OUP, 2010, pp. 251-271.
  • Colebrook, Claire. Death of the Posthuman: Essays on Extinction. Vol 1. Open Humanity Press, 2014.

Reviews of Ontroerend Goed’s World Without Us in The Guardian and exeunt Magazine (2016)

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25. Januar 2022
12:15 – 13:45




Professur für Amerikanistik